As many people in the United States are beginning to prepare for fall and winter holiday festivities such as Halloween, Día de los Muertos, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s, there is a need to protect individuals and their families, friends, and communities from COVID-19. Holiday gatherings including large family meetings, crowded parties, and travel that may put communities at increased risk of COVID-19 should be avoided.

During holiday festivities, there is a chance of virus transmission. A low spread risk is posed by celebrating virtually or with members of our own household. Meetings in person pose varying levels of risk. The risk of transmitting the virus should be evaluated by event organizers and participants based on the size of the event, the location of gathering, the duration of the gathering, and the use of prevention strategies.

Family and friends should consider the number and rate of COVID-19 cases in their community and in the community where they plan to celebrate. Meetings with participants commuting from different places face a higher risk than meetings with participants living in the same area.

Normally, indoor meetings pose a greater risk than outdoor meetings. Indoor incidents with insufficient ventilation are more likely to cause infection than those with sufficient ventilation, such as those with open windows or doors. Meetings with more participants and those last longer face a higher risk than shorter meetings with less participants. Meetings with participants who do not adhere to social distance (staying at least 6 feet apart), wearing a mask, washing hands and other behaviors of prevention pose a greater risk than meetings with participants engaging in such preventive behaviors.

It is recommended that people with or exposed to COVID-19 should not attend in-person holiday celebrations. In-person holiday celebrations should also not be attended by people at increased risk of serious illness. People who have underlying chronic medical conditions such as chronic lung disease, heart disorder, or a compromised immune system should avoid in-person meetings and large gatherings. Precautions should also be taken by pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Think of fun alternatives that represent a lower risk of the COVID-19 virus spreading. Make trick-or-treating safer during the Halloween festivities. Most typical Halloween events are at high risk of viruses spreading. Carving or decorating pumpkins and showing them outside at a safe distance and a virtual Halloween costume contest are lower risk practices.

There are some safer, alternative forms of celebrating Día de los Muertos and playing music that your loved ones enjoy. Thanksgiving is a time to rejoice as many families drive long distances. Travel raises the risk of that spreading COVID-19. Lower risk practices include hosting a small dinner with only people living in your home, preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of serious COVID-19 disease, and delivering them in a way that does not require interaction with others, hosting a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family, shopping online rather than persons.

Host outdoor events rather than indoor activities. If it is not possible to host an outdoor event and you prefer to host an indoor event, avoid cramped, poorly ventilated, or completely enclosed indoor spaces. Instead of meetings in the potluck format, invite guests to bring food and drinks only for themselves and for members of their own household. Reduce the number of participants as much as possible. To help others keep safe, carry supplies such as extra masks (do not exchange or trade with others), hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol, and tissues.

The best way to protect yourself and others is to stay at home. If you plan to fly, obey protection precautions throughout your trip to protect yourself from COVID-19 and others. When in public areas, wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth hidden, avoid direct contact by being at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) away from someone who is not from your household .Clean your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol). Stop rubbing your eyes, nose, and mouth. Avoid contact with someone who is sick.

Follow the tips during the celebration to decrease the chance of being exposed to, receiving, or spreading COVID-19. At the end of a public event, avoid using toilet facilities. Avoid busy dining areas such as restaurants. Minimize movements that facilitate close interaction. Do not shake hands, bump elbows, or offer hugs. Wave instead and salute others verbally.

If you have taken part in higher-risk events or think you might have been exposed during the celebration, take additional precautions for 14 days to protect others. Stay home as much as possible.  Avoid being around people who are at increased risk of getting serious COVID-19 disease and consider getting tested for COVID-19.